Choosing between the best of the best is no easy task, but that’s exactly what the Top Tier Product Awards is all about — recognizing manufacturing excellence in mission critical equipment that embraces safety, energy efficiency, and innovative solutions to ensure reliable uptime for the data centers of today and tomorrow. Categories include everything from power systems to the racks they support and the cables that connect them. The eight winning products were selected by a panel of third-party judges who scored each entry based on scalability, reliability, size, and other notable features. Seven manufacturers stepped into the inaugural winner’s circle, and, together, they are raising the bar when it comes to mission critical equipment and what to expect.
DDC Cabinet Technology
S-Series Cabinet Solution
DDC Cabinet Technology’s tagline — “Any Hardware. Any Density. Anywhere.” — is what earned the S-Series Cabinet Solution the top spot in the Cabinets category. Like the company says it will, the S-Series enables efficient, cost-effective, and secure IT infrastructure deployment in nearly any environment, at nearly any density, and all for less than $1 per watt.
Perhaps the most unique feature of the platform is the Dynamic Density Control™. At the rack level, water and electrical consumption, fan speed, and air volume react to changes in IT hardware activity to sustain ideal environmental conditions for each individual enclosure, whether it’s operating at 5 kW or 55 kW — all without any human intervention. OpenAPI integration to existing building management system (BMS) tools provides dynamic operating feedback to pumps, chillers, and supporting infrastructure to further reduce costs and increase efficiency.
Additionally, the S-Series line can be deployed modularly as a single cabinet or with thousands of units operating in sequence, so users can deploy exactly what they require for Day 1 demand and scale as needs change.
“Colocation, or multitenant facilities, challenged by the various client hardware deployments can also benefit from this unique design,” said Chris Orlando, chairman and co-founder of DDC.
The original DDC S-Series line supported up to 52 kW of thermal density per individual enclosure. The second generation supports 85 kW of thermal density with the patented liquid-air hybrid cooling system.
“While we can’t share the full road map, with 100-plus-kW racks being announced for specialized use cases, you can rest assured that DDC Cabinet Technology plans to stay ahead of the demand curve, providing efficient, deploy-anywhere capabilities for workloads from 1 kW and beyond,” said Orlando. “With integrated environmental control, biometric security, fire suppression, and monitoring, the cabinet is now the data center. If that isn’t a major change for the mission critical industry, we don’t know what is, but with our pedigree in liquid-air hybrid cooling, we feel ready to take on those challenges as they emerge.”
Corning Optical Communications
Corning CleanAdvantage™ technology
Working with its customers, installers, and partners, Corning Optical Communications developed a technology designed to increase speed of deployment and enhance network reliability. It’s called Corning CleanAdvantage™ technology, and it’s the winner of the Cables/Cable Management category. The technology utilizes proprietary cleaning technology for the entire connector ferrule with an optimized cap design to ensure a factory-clean connector ready for installation. CleanAdvantage eliminates the need to clean and scope MTP and LC connectors prior to the first mating connection.
But, by far, the most notable feature of the connectors is how they can ensure every first-time installation is free of contaminants, increasing network reliability.
Experienced industry professionals are familiar with the excruciating, painstaking experience of installing, cleaning, and connecting countless fibers only to have connections fail to meet link-loss standards due to microscopic dirt and debris.
According to Cisco, any contamination in the fiber connection can cause failure to not only the component but also the whole system. To mitigate this risk, operators field-clean connectors prior to installing them, which is resource-intensive in terms of labor and cleaning supplies. Not to mention, current testing standards around the end-face quality of connectors only cover specified “check areas.” Particles outside of those areas can migrate, degrading signal quality slowly over time without operator knowledge.
“By integrating a new proprietary cleaning technology into the manufacturing process, Corning CleanAdvantage removes complexity and risk from the field and delivers an easier experience for those involved with data center installations,” said Arelis Soto, marketing manager at Corning.
For contractors, eliminating tedious testing steps from the installation process enables them to complete projects up to 17% quicker, unlocking additional revenue opportunities. For end users, faster completion of critical infrastructure projects minimizes downtime.
Corning scientists and engineers worked in conjunction with field technicians to ensure the technology was easily deployed and operated — installation is as simple as removing the dust cap and inserting the connector. By reducing cleaning waste, CleanAdvantage also makes data center operations more sustainable.
SPX Cooling Technologies Inc.
Marley® NC Everest® Cooling Tower
Surveys and market assessments with end users, engineers, and mechanical contractors, combined with research and development, drive innovations at SPX Cooling Technologies, the company that won the HVAC Systems category for its Marley NC Everest Cooling Tower.
“Product managers regularly collect voice-of-the-customer information, analyze it, and translate it into new concepts that can ultimately turn into product specifications,” said Kent Martens, regional sales manager for SPX.
In fact, the NC Everest resulted from field requests for a factory-assembled cooling tower with higher cooling capacity, lower energy use, faster installation, and low sound operation.
Its innovative modular design provides unmatched cooling capacity, uses less fan power to achieve higher energy savings, and minimizes piping and electrical connections to reduce installation costs. It’s certified by the Cooling Technology Institute (CTI) to meet thermal performance as specified, which means additional testing costs are also eliminated. Additionally, sound levels have been independently verified by a third-party, CTI-licensed test agency and acoustical engineer.
SPX included additional features, such as 7-foot doors that provide access to the tower’s interior service decks and mechanical components, making routine inspections and maintenance safe and easy. Equipped with patented MarKey® drift eliminating technology, the NC Everest can achieve a measurable drift rate down to 0.0005% of circulating water flow, so less water escapes the tower. It also incorporates highly efficient PVC heat transfer fill media and integral louvers for maximum water containment.
The preassembled modules arrive on-site sooner and install faster than field-erected towers, which were often required to meet the tonnage necessary for major building complexes.
“A recent construction estimate to replace a field-erected cooling tower in the Southeast United States required 4,500 hours and seven weeks of field labor,” said Martens. “By specifying the modular NC Everest Cooling Tower instead, installation duration contracted to less than two weeks.”
Cooling tower users have demanded more features — faster delivery to site, shorter construction duration, less laydown space, fewer logistical requirements, and safer assembly techniques, to name a few. The ability to meet these demands is what makes the NC Everest so valuable to mission critical facilities.
Power Systems and Supplies
Power isn’t something the mission critical industry takes lightly (pun intended), so it’s not surprising the Power Systems and Products category had the most submissions. The Atom Switch by Atom Power earned the top spot among all the contenders as it not only improves efficiency and life safety measures but it also solves a major problem facing the entire industry today. The current electrical infrastructure is unequipped to meet the growing demands of data centers due to poorly managed power distribution. But, with the Atom Switch, data center operators can provide their customers rack-level power distribution capabilities that allow for high-speed transfer switching and load control.
The commercially available, solid-state circuit breaker controls the flow of power completely digitally via silicon carbide (SiC) semiconductors and software instead of traditional mechanical switches. Its intelligent power platform — the Atom Switch, the Atom Panel, and the Atom OS Software User Interface — replaces the need for hundreds of components used today. Atom Panels are designed to be the same size as mechanical circuit breakers for seamless installation into commercial buildings. Additionally, with the Atom OS software, users can control and manage power from any computer or smart device.
In data centers specifically, power density is increasing significantly and generating more heat, which means additional liquid cooling systems are needed at the rack level. These cooling systems require redundant pumping systems and are sensitive to the quality of incoming power. When a pump loses power, the switchover to a backup source can disrupt the operation of the cooling system, making the risk of overheating alarmingly high. The Atom Switch enables rapid transfer between various power sources, which significantly reduces the risk of losing power. Due to its speed and connectivity, the switch virtually eliminates the risk of arc flash, which could prevent thousands of life-threatening accidents each year.
As a former commercial electrician turned electrical engineer, CEO/co-founder, Ryan Kennedy, witnessed the dangers of electrical infrastructure and was motivated to build something better. In 2014, he teamed up with CTO/co-founder, Denis Kouroussis, an experienced electrical engineer, to build a reliable, sophisticated, and easy-to-use circuit breaker that would bring power distribution and management into the digital age. The Atom Switch surpassed expectations by so much during UL listing tests that a new category was created: UL 4891.
Looking forward, Atom Power plans to offer its key, enabling technologies to other major manufacturers in the industry.
“This approach is designed to accelerate the adoption of this crucial technology and propel us toward a future where energy is fast, safe, and intelligently controlled for the first time,” said Kennedy.
MiniRaQ by Eaton
When it comes to rack space in the white space, size matters, and that’s why the MiniRaQ by Eaton secured a place at the top of the Racks category.
Capable of holding up to 400 pounds in its compact footprint, the MiniRaQ by Eaton provides a reliable enclosure that fits in confined spaces. Its simple, modular design allows for single-technician installation, reducing installation costs and time to deploy.
The MiniRaQ is compatible with a wide variety of Eaton UPSs — specifically lead-acid and lithium-ion battery offerings, automatic transfer switches, and bypass and rack power distribution units — to support power reliability requirements while providing an additional level of security for remote environments.
Eaton worked closely with BlackHawk Labs to create the MiniRaQ. The focus of the design was reducing effort for the installer while still maintaining a rugged construction. This was achieved with a modular build that supports equipment changes over time. Unlike traditional horizontal-mount enclosures with 19- to 23-inch limitations, the MiniRaQ by Eaton empowers IT professionals to vertically mount networking and server equipment up to 35 inches in length safely and securely.
In addition to the time- and space-saving features offered by Eaton, the optional high-velocity, multi-fan module ensures networking equipment stays cool.
“Overall, the MiniRaQ offers customers versatility where they require it, with the convertible design allowing users to adapt and future-proof their environments as requirements change over time,” said Jeff Kennedy, rack PDU product/operations manager, Eaton.
Self-Enclosed Managed Hardened Gigabit Ethernet PoE++ Switch
What’s the most vital aspect of a data center? Well, that’s up for debate, but security is definitely in the running. And, according to the Top Tier Products Awards judges, Transition Networks is No. 1 in the security category for its Self-Enclosed Managed Hardened Gigabit Ethernet PoE++ Switch. This all-in-one solution includes its own enclosure, power supply, surge protection, and more, making it quick, easy, and cost-effective to deploy new IP devices or extend networks in security and surveillance networks. This unique switch offers up to 90 W per port for powering pan-tilt-zoom security cameras or other PoE-powered devices. The switch is equipped with near-field communications (NFC), allowing simple and repeatable configuration of multiple switches using a user-friendly app on a mobile device prior to connecting or powering up the switch. Integrated Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) allows remote access to alarm information or to read/change equipment settings without requiring physical access by ladders or scissor lifts. These features reduce time, expense, and access challenges of installing high-speed cameras or other devices in industrial or outdoor environments where it is difficult to add power or cost-prohibitive to hire electricians. It is built into an outdoor NEMA 4X/IP66 enclosure that mounts directly on a wall or pole and incorporates integrated management software simplifying setup, monitoring, and control of connected devices.
It is among the first switches to combine high-performance networking with specific technologies to make it easier — and less dangerous — to install and maintain.
“While traditional switches require a user to research, procure, and assemble items, such as a cabinet, switch, power supply, thermal management, etc., from multiple sources and ensure they all work together, the self-enclosed switch incorporates all of these components, saving users time and expense related to planning, purchasing, and installation,” said GlenNiece Kutsch, senior product manager at Transition Networks.
With the switch and surveillance cameras often located in hard-to-reach areas, it is important to be able to manage and power devices remotely. Installers can gain secure access to the switch from any location through the easy-to-use mobile app. Remotely rebooting the power on these devices can fix a lot of problems and save on unnecessary service visits for simple power failures or provide the data needed to reduce the amount of time needed for service calls that can’t be avoided.
Virtual Power Systems
ICE® Intelligent Control of Energy Platform
Virtual Power Systems (VPS) spent the past three years defining and refining data center power distribution strategies to solve some of the most perplexing power utilization problems, and, according to the panel of judges, the company did exactly that. The Intelligent Control of Energy® (ICE) platform outscored every other entry in the Software category to earn the No. 1 spot.
Software-defined data centers previously focused only on virtual servers, storage, and networks, but the fourth pillar — power — has been introduced. By continuously interrogating devices within data centers to identify sources of stranded power, ICE can increase rack density by up to 2 to 1, improve uptime and availability, and tap into the redundant power infrastructure of traditional 2N designs to go beyond 50% power allocation. By combining ICE with multiple hardware and software components data center operators are now able to increase availability and reliability while lowering the carbon footprint of their mission critical applications.
The ICE platform integrates with, manages, and automates existing power hardware (any product, any vendor) in data centers, increasing the intelligent use of energy (IUE) by 60%, and significantly improving resiliency and availability while reducing risk. The ICE software starts as an on-premises solution for each enterprise, colo, or hyperscale data center.
“We incorporate machine learning, predictive algorithms, and a portfolio of use case-specific mechanisms, as well as the ability to create custom mechanisms for unique use cases, to solve the toughest power problems in a customer’s data center,” said Mark Adams, chief business officer of Virtual Power Systems. “The ability to halt rack sprawl through consolidation while increasing power density can slash the annual energy cost for a production IT rack by more than half. ICE software also enables dynamic power tiering, source sharing of power, and power sharing across nodes. ICE not only gathers data but uses AI to automate, predict, manage, and enable/embed intelligence into any hardware vendor/device so that the entire power infrastructure can be orchestrated based on the state of the data center at that moment — and in the future.
By reclaiming unusable stranded power, this technology could achieve the equivalent of pulling more than 13 million cars off the road.
VPS’s product road map will enable the federation of power dynamics across global clouds, including remote data center operations, automation, inter-data center machine learning, and power/workload orchestration.
5P lithium-ion UPS
Eaton celebrated two victories in the first-ever Top Tier Products Awards. The company’s 5P lithium-ion UPS surpassed the competition and was named the winning product in the UPS/Flywheels category.
The initial research and design process for the 5P began in 2015. At the time, lithium-ion batteries for UPS applications were rarely available in the market, so Eaton took the initiative to evaluate various battery manufacturers and chemistries for the intended application. Moreover, careful selection of the cell chemistry and design of the battery management system was employed to prioritize safety, performance, and compliance (UN38.3, IEC 62133, IEC 62619, UL 1998, UL 1973, and UL 1642).
New supply chain procedures and processes were created to distribute this rack-mountable lithium-ion UPS to customers while providing mechanisms for warranty returns and replacements prior to bringing the product to market.
Additionally, Eaton partnered with Call2Recycle, a nonprofit organization dedicated to battery recycling.
Compared to the original 5P platform, the 5P lithium-ion UPS boasts enhanced capabilities, including an advanced, onboard battery management system that provides up-to-date insights into battery performance, charge cycles, health status, and active temperature monitoring to keep users informed. The UPS also provides remote monitoring and management with the optional UL 2900-1- and IEC 62443-4-2-compliant Eaton Gigabit Network Card, designed to enhance uptime and protect against cyber threats.
“Gartner recently classified five types of edge environments — the regional data center, local data center, compute, gateway, and device edge — emphasizing the various environments in which lithium-ion technology can be beneficial,” said Kevin Lindley, product manager, Eaton. “Expect expanded lithium-ion UPS offerings in the future from Eaton as the market continues to adopt this new technology.”
“Being able to recognize manufacturing excellence in products and services that are key to the success of our professional readers is an important role for our team,” said Mike Murphy, publisher of Mission Critical. “I would like to thank the third-party independent panel of judges for sharing their expertise and lending even more credibility to this inaugural award program. I’m excited to see more outstanding products in the years to come, but, for now, congratulations to the innovative companies that we honor in this issue.”